History B: Aspects Russia 1905-1941

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The Russian Class System

The Middle Classes: Because of the industrialisation of Russia a new class emerged - THE CAPITALISTS. They were landowners, bankers and bussinessman. They were concerned with economic welfare and controlling the workforce. They greatly increased the size of the middle classes, which had been very small.

The Peasants: 80% of the population of Russia were peasants, they lived and worked in communes in horrible conditions, this led to a life expectancy of 40 - years due to starvation. There was ahuge population increase in the 1900's so agricultural landhad to be shared between many families. They were mainly uneducated, but often supported the Tsar because of their religious values. However they also objected to the amount of land given to the church and aristocracy, so some supported the new social reforms.

The Working Class: The Tsar wanted Russia to become and industrail power, so increased the oil, coal and iron production. In order to achieve this they used the peasants as a workforce. They worked for cheap, but the working conditions were appaling, with overcrowding, bad food and disease. There were no government regulations on hours, child labour and health and safety.

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The arisocracy and the Tsar

The Aristocracy: The aristocrascy had a very high standard of living compared to the peasants although they only made up 15% of the population. Most of the aristocracy were loyal to the Tsar and wanted Russian society to stay as it was. They owned 25% of the land and their biggest fear was that the peasants would take their land.

The Tsar and His Government: Russia was ruled as an AUTOCRACY. The Tsar had full control over Russia and believed that God had put him there, and the church agreed. He could do anything he wanted to without being questioned. Nicholas avoided difficult decisions, he did not deligate day-to-day tasks. He did not contribute to government acts and managed his officials badly.  He greatly disliked confrontations. He appointed friends and family to important positions, despite their lack of qualifications, so many situations were handled very badly. The Tsars strongest asset was this secret police force the OKHRANA.

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How the Tsar kept control

The regime was very strong in some ways and resistance was largely limited. The peasants were all controlled by the MIR, who were minor landlords appointed by the Tsar to control the peasants. The ZEMSTVA (local assemblies) also had some control but were dominated by landlords and professionals. All local governers were appointed by the Tsar from his aristocracy. In certain areas Russia was apolice state and ruled by these local governers in emergencies they coud:

  • Order police to arrest regime opposition.
  • Ban individuals from the zemstva, courts or governments. 
  • Introduce censorship on books, leaflets and newspapers
  • Make suspects pay fines.

The local governments were in control of the police and the police force had 10,000 officers and concentrated specifically on regime opposition. The Tsar also had the Okhrana, his secret police, and incase a real rebellion broke out, he had the army.

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Opposition to the Tsar

The Tsarist regime faced opposition from three main parties:

The Liberals (or Cadets): These were mainly the middle class, they wanted democracy in a similar way to the UK with a king and a parliament. However they wanted to keep the Tsar.

The Social Revolutionaries: Wanted to carve up the estates of the nobility and give them to the poor. They were very violent and were responsible for the murders of many okhrana member and some governement officials. They were supported by the town and coutryside peasants.

The Social Democratic Party: This group were much smaller, but a lot better organized. They followed the ideas of Karl Marx. But in 1903 the party split into two smaller groups. The Bolsheviks and The Mensheviks. The Bolsheviks were led by Lenin and believed that they should create a revolution, but the mensheviks believed that Russia was not ready for revolution. Both organisations were illegal and many members were arrested and exiled.

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Bloody Sunday

On Sunday 22nd January 1905  approximately 200,000 protestors gathered at the Tsar's winter palace led by a man named Father Gapon. They had come with the intention of giving the Tsar a petition. Many of them were very firm supporters of the Tsar, and carried pictures to show this.

The Tsar had already left for Saint Petersburg so instead of meeting the Tsar they were met by a regiment of cossacks. The cossacks opened fire without warning, killing hundreds of protestors.

The Tsar lost the respect of the ordinary people of Russia.

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How did the Tsar survive?

The Tsar took a long time to respond, but in October he released the OCTOBER MANIFESTO, it stated that:

  • Russia now had a DUMA (and elected parliament)
  • The right to freedom of speech and to form political parties.

In November further financial concessions were given. The liberals were pleased with the manifesto, but the other opposition groups doubted it. While they were debating what to do the Tsar brought his best troops into Western Russia and crushed the rebellion.

In December many opposition leaders were arrested and exiled, this led to serious protests and fights in the streets. But protestors were no match for and army,  the revolution was completely crushed and all the leaders were either killed or exiled.


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The Troubled Years: 1905 - 1914

The Tsar survived thatnks to his October Manifesto. He had granted the people a Duma bu then put in place laws that did not allow the Duma to do anything.

He treated the Duma with disdain and refused to even look at them during many meetings. He took very little notice of their opinions. In 1907 the Duma changed so that any opponents to the Tsar could not be voted in. This Duma lasted until 1912, but even the 'loyal' Duma became critical.

The Duma had no power to change anything and was essentially powerless.

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In 1906 the Tsar appointed Stolypin as his new prime minister. He was famed for his use of the 'carrot and stick' method.

The Stick: He cracked down on strikers 200,000 were exiled and over 1000 hanged. This killed off all the opposition to the Tsarist regime.

The Carrot: He won over the peasants with land. The wealthy peasants (KULAKS) were allowed to leave their commune and buy themselves land. The Kulaks were very prosperous. However 90% of land was still owned by communes. Stolypin tried to boost industry and a lot of industrial growth occurred under his leadership. However Russia was still very far behind the rest of the western world and the workers conditions did not improve at all.

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